• Reuters


Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has called on the Premier League to scrap early kickoffs on Saturdays to protect player welfare amid a congested schedule.

His side is scheduled to visit Newcastle United in the early lunchtime slot on Saturday and Lampard is concerned with the lack of preparation time afforded to his players, many of whom were only returning from international duty later on Thursday.

“It’s not the best. When you look at the scheduling it is a common sense factor. That 12:30 p.m. slot, how often does it need to be there,” Lampard told reporters on Thursday.

“It’s absolutely not the optimum way to have players preparing for a Premier League game. You want the best of the brand. I want us to play to our best but it is very difficult circumstances.

“The injuries are going up across the Premier League. Change the time, it is not that difficult. We have to continue to look at the best way to change it.”

Lampard also urged the Premier League to rethink its stance on limiting clubs to making only three substitutions per match.

Soccer’s rule-making body, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), gave leagues the option of continuing to use five substitutes per match in the 2020-21 campaign after introducing the system earlier this year, but Premier League clubs voted against that option.

“I think it is something we have to address again with clubs. My main concern is player welfare, they are under incredible stress, especially those playing in Europe,” he said, referring to the Champions League and Europa League.

“I don’t want anyone to cry their eyes out for players but everywhere else has five substitutes, we have to revisit this.”

Lampard confirmed that Chelsea’s Germany playmaker Kai Havertz has returned to training after completing his period of isolation following a positive COVID-19 test earlier this month but is unlikely to make the trip to St James’ Park.

Their American forward Christian Pulisic is also a major doubt as he continues his recovery from a hamstring injury.

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